It's Ski Season, which for many means engaging muscles that haven't been used much throughout the year. Any good athlete knows that a strong foundation is key and as with all sports this means preparing not only physically but mentally for the task ahead. Although vastly different in it's approach, the mind-set, endurance and strength used in Yoga is hugely complimentary to that used when skiing or snowboarding. For a busy mum like myself, or for commuters who struggle to find time to hit the gym, Yoga is the perfect solution to a quick fitness session at home. It doesn't need to take long and requires with no fancy equipment.
Balancing Strength, Endurance and Flexibility
Although much slower and calmer, the endurance and grace of skiing is directly mirrored in Yoga Practice. Being qualified in Freestyle Fitness Yoga, my personal interest lies in looking at Yoga postures from an anatomical and physiological perspective. As such I think it's important to understand that Yoga is not just about meditation and relaxation but also striking a balance between strength and flexibility.
Quadriceps can easily become shortened and over developed when skiing, which in turn can lead to shorter and tighter hamstrings. This is why it's crucial to work equally on strength and flexibility. A carefully structured whole body approach will allow you to release some strain from regularly stressed area's such as the knee joint, hip flexors and lower back.
Below are some postures which should help to improve your hip mobility, strengthen your lower body and work on your core stability. It doesn't need to take long, just 15-20 minutes at the end of your day to work through a few exercises can have massive health benefits whether you're headed up the Alps or simply looking to remain active through the winter months.
Let's face it, a big part of skiing is holding a squat so it makes sense to practice this posture at home on solid ground first. This pose will strengthen through the lower body and encourages you to engage your core. By Increasing the time spent in each position your muscular endurance will also be tested.
2) Balance Pose
If you want to spend more time on your ski's and less time on your butt you'll want to make sure you practice your balancing. Core stability in crucial when skiing and any yoga postures where focus and endurance is pushing your boundaries are ideal to get maximum results. Single leg balance's such as the Tree posture help to tone and strengthen the quads, calves and ankles whilst stretching across the hip flexors and inner thigh.
Your core muscle work hard when you ski especially when you change direction or cross uneven terrain. Consisting of your abs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and deeper back muscles a strong core is crucial in supporting your spine and could potentially help to reduce risk of injury when skiing.
4) Warrior Lunge
This posture is great to warm and stretch through the hips, shoulders and legs. Focusing on strengthen the quads and engaging the core.
This is a great posture to decrease stiffness in the lower back. Stretch across the chest, shoulders and abdominals and strengthen the muscles which stabilise the spine.
6) Standing or Seated Hamstring Stretch
Skiing uses a wide range of movement that can be sudden and sporadic, demanding a lot of flexibility from lower body. By stretching your hamstrings and quads you increase the functionality of your muscles and could significantly reduce the risk of soreness or injury.
7) Hip Flexor Stretch
This posture is ideal to stretch the quadriceps and hip flexors whilst also encouraging mobility through the hip joint.
8) Sun Salutation - A classic yoga sun salutation will take you through a tricep dip position, cobra pose and into Downward facing dog. This continuous flow of movement is a great total body exercise. Working on core stability whilst also encouraging joint mobility and building upper body strength simultaneously.